Toyota Marketing Material From the Year 2000 Will Transport You to the Land of Low-Rise Jeans and Baby Spice
You remember the Toyota Echo, right? What about Toyota's Flaming Lips music collab? Isthisatoyota.com?
I think I’m a budding hoarder. Only fitting, since episodes of Hoarders have been my writing background noise whilst wordsmithing up my tasty blogs for Car Bibles. Anyways my room is littered with junk and memories of cars past. I have a seatbelt buckle for a Hyundai Tiburon that was broken when I bought it. A window regulator for a Cadillac CTS that I owned in 2017 is just sort of chilling on my desk. All that detritus was really funking with my writing jam, so I set aside an evening to clean my room. While cleaning, I found this sales brochure for a 2000 Toyota Echo, and I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
Y’all remember the Echo, right? It was a cheap little getaround car Toyota turned out before Scion was a thing or the second-gen Prius became ubiquitous. I had one for a cute little flip I did in the midst of the pandemic 2020’s fall (and you can read about how I made $450 or so off it here). I bought it with a bad alternator and very old gas, sorted it out, and made some money.
Anyways the sales brochure is a nifty piece of information. The Echo was a super basic car, some models didn’t even have power steering. And yet, the sales brochure is well made and weirdly interesting to look at. Like many pieces of ad copy, it’s a fun time capsule.
Echos are really well-packaged cars – sure they’re dopey as hell to look at, loads of room.
See, we don’t need all those damn SUVs! The upright seating position would be familiar to anyone used to driving a modern crossover. It’s cool, it’s chic, it’s ahead of its time. The Echo was part of the “Toyota Project Genesis” which had the MR2, Echo, and Celica marketed explicitly to get those sweet youth “Gen Y” (Gen X, actually) dollars.
My closeted seven-year-old gay ass loved this Toyota Echo ad. Til this day, my goal is to be pretty and sit five deep in the back seat of an Echo, wearing low-rise jeans and a tube top.
Fun ads aside, Toyota’s Project Genesis initiative flopped. Still, it gave birth to Scion, which also kind of flopped? Not sure. Scion sold plenty of cars, but, it doesn’t exist anymore.
On the back of the brochure, it has a picture of the then-new Celica. But the MR2 Spyder is still a concept! It’s not even the MR2 spyder yet, Toyota’s calling it the “MR Spyder Concept Car” here. Above that, is a website “www.isthistoyota.com.”
As of today, that links back to Toyota’s main website. To see what things were like when this car was released, I used the old-faithful wayback machine, to take a time machine back to the year 2000.
Unfortunately, Flash isn’t supported anymore, so the Hi-Fi website won’t work. Also, I don’t think the Wayback machine copied all the code and files that it needed to work, anyway.
Oh wow, we’re starting off strong here. Look at that youth-oriented copy, y’all.
A lot of code is broken, some code is likely incompatible with a modern browser, other links were never archived. Also, modern computer screens are much higher resolution than whatever we had back in 2000, so forgive all the wonky screenshots.
Most of the “discussion” links, or the shop@Toyota, are broken. Most of the copy is missing or invisible, maybe wrapped up in some Adobe Flash code that is lost decades to time. The only thing that works on either the Celica, MR2, or Echo pages is the gallery.
Since Toyota’s Project Genesis involved marketing to “the Youth” that meant the company had to dip toes into youth-oriented events. Yet, it seemed like the things Toyota experimented with there didn’t pan out as well as hoped. The Flaming Lips Webcast was probably hella novel in the year 1999 or 2000, but I’m not sure it really turned alt music fans into Toyota customers?
By comparison, Ford was relatively successful with its own efforts in courting young people through music by way of events like “Focus247” and the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Remember, Ford even sponsored the DEMF for a few years. That Festival still exists today, whereas project Gravity and BMX biking is but a fraction of the popularity it had in the early aughties.
From my understanding, it seems as if Toyota tried to court the alty, BMXy type people, and it didn’t pan out so well. The follow-up to Project Genesis was Scion, and Scion’s youth-courting efforts, decidedly looked more, uh, Urban. I’m sure there’s a strong critique of how black, and/or urban inner-city culture is used to cynically sell some kind of boring econoboxes, but I don’t have the bandwidth for that critique today. Instead, I’ll just reminisce about the kind of cringy, but also kind of good, songs Toyota commissioned for the 2003+ Toyota Corolla’s website. The singer of the second song sounds suspiciously like Cee-Lo Green, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
I love these pieces of history now that I’m older. It’s fun to piece together the past, and figure out how and why we got from point A to point B.